EU's Solana begins Middle East tour

The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, arrived in Lebanon on Monday as part of a Middle East tour that is said to be aimed at resolving Beirut's political crisis and encouraging reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, dip

EU's Solana begins Middle East tour

EU officials described Solana's regional tour, which will also take him to Syria and Saudi Arabia, as a listening trip.

Speaking to reporters at Beirut airport, Solana said that his regional touris "very important", stressing that it is taking place ahead of an Arab summitdue to be held in Saudi Arabia later this month.

Although Solana said that the "engagement of the European Union with Lebanon istotal", he stressed that the solution to the current political stalemate "hasto be Lebanese".

The EU's foreign policy chief will travel tomorrow to Saudi Arabia,which supports the Western-backed Lebanese government.

Correspondents say Solana's visit to Saudi Arabia reflects itsincreasingly centre-stage diplomatic role in relation to thePalestinian-Israeli conflict.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing agreementbetween the ruling Palestinian party Hamas and its rivalFatah.

On Wednesday, Solana is expected to make his first visit to Syria since a two-year French veto on directtalks with Damascuswas lifted.

The veto followed the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, whicha UN panel blamed on Syria.

Damascus hasdenied any involvement in Hariri's murder.

On his expected meeting with Syrian President Basharal-Assad, Solana said: "I hope we will have a good exchange of views.I hope it will be ... constructive."

In another possible sign of increasing re-acceptance of Syria, a top U.S.state department official is due to hold talks with Syrian officials, markingthe highest-level U.S. visitto Damascussince 2005.

  • "Lebanese solution"

In Beirut, Solana held talkswith Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, an opposition leader, and was due tomeet Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to discuss Lebanon's four-month-oldpolitical crisis.

"He (Berri) said he will try to be of help ... I come out of themeeting more optimistic than when I went in," Solana told a newsconference after meeting the Hezbollah-allied ParliamentSpeaker.

"The EU will do as much as it can to help you," Solana said,pointing to the large European presence in the UN peacekeeping force insouthern Lebanon which was beefed up after last year's devastating war betweenIsrael and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.

Last week, rival Lebanese political leaders held talks that raised hopes ofa possible solution to end the power struggle between the anti-Syrianmajority coalition and the opposition which includes Hezbollah.

However, Lebanese politicians didn't provide any details of thediscussions and the only agreement reached at the meeting appeared to be tomeet again for further talks.

Lebanon'spolitical tensions escalated last November following the resignation of sixopposition ministers from the government, largely over the cabinet'sendorsement of a UN tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri murder.

The opposition fears that the tribunal, which still has towin parliamentary backing, may be used as a political tool.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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